It's a stately, traditional neighborhood with a decidedly untraditionaltwist.
"I see a different color hair walking outside my windows every day," said Bolton Hill resident David Hart when talking about the numerous art students who call the area home or at least a home away from home.
Bordered on the east by Mount Royal Avenue, on the north by North Avenue, on the west by Eutaw Place and on the south by Preston Street, the neighborhood for years has been populated by writers and artists, among others. Writers Gerald W. Johnson, Russell Baker and William Manchester resided there. And F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, also lived there, "probably in their last home together," noted Carol Warner, another resident.
While there are a few houses that pre-date the Civil War, the neighborhood came into its own in the years after the war. The neighborhood can be seen on maps that date as far back as 1869, although it was not known as Bolton Hill until the early 1950s.
"The garden club came up with the name, which was partly a reference to the neighborhood's Bolton Mansion and partly a nod to Beacon Hill in Boston," Warner said.
Although in the summer Bolton Hill is right in the thick of the ArtScape festival, it has a smaller neighborhood festival in the fall.
Scheduled for Saturday, this year's Festival on the Hill is sponsored by Memorial Episcopal Church. "It's a fun day with live music and ethnic foods, and the money that is raised goes back to the community," Hart said.
And those who attend the festival can see a neighborhood that offers a wide variety of housing.
"We've got everything from apartment buildings, Victorian rowhouses, newer townhouses and several detached houses, one of which houses Family and Children's Services," Warner said. "And this variety of housing brings in a variety of people, including those with children."
Hart added: "Rutter Street has a handful of band-box houses -- very tall, very thin houses that used to house mill workers."
Also a boon to the buildings in the neighborhood is the Maryland Institute, College of Art. "MICA is constantly buying up old buildings and renovating them," Hart said. "And all the art students out and about really contribute to the safety of the neighborhood."
Housing doesn't come cheap -- the average cost of a house sold in 1997 was $120,093 -- but Bolton Hill residences are suitably impressive. Jake Boone, a Realtor with Hill and Co., points to a residence now on the market in the 200 block of W. Lafayette Ave. Built about 1865, the house carries an asking price of $125,000.
"The house has five bedrooms, three floors, 2 1/2 bathrooms, beautiful random-width Georgia pine flooring," Boone said. "There are floor-to-ceiling windows, plaster moldings, an unfinished basement, two working fireplaces and a 20-year-old kitchen.
"The house still could use a lot of cosmetic work, including floors in need of refinishing, painting, some lighting work, but there are wonderful details and a very private garden."
Nearby, in the 1300 block of Bolton St., and similar to the property on West Lafayette, is a home built in 1870 with an asking price of $159,900.
"Many of the houses are similar in terms of amenities, proportion and details," Boone said.
Also on the market is a home in the 1500 block of Bolton St. "With an asking price of $249,000, it is much larger in terms of the size of rooms," Boone said. "There's a finished lower level, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a kitchen in the basement."
Boone, a resident of the neighborhood for more than a decade, added: "I'm most fond of Bolton Hill ; it's just a wonderful neighborhood. There are a great mix of people, beautiful architecture, lots of greenery and open space."
On one block of John Street, neighbors got together and petitioned the city to block off the street from traffic. "They also did the same thing on Lanvale Street between Bolton Street and Eutaw Place," Hart said.
"It makes an urban neighborhood even more desirable, and there's a real sense of community."
He is seconded by Warner, who moved from a rural area to the neighborhood three years ago. "People are extraordinarily friendly," she said. "Someone cutting his shrubbery ended up giving me a tour of his house."
The extraordinarily friendly residents include an eclectic mix of "physicians, lawyers, business people people with children in high school, as well as people who are well into their 90s," Hart said.
Bolton Hill residents can reach the Inner Harbor, Enoch Pratt Free Library and the downtown business district in 20 minutes by foot. The Lyric Theatre, Theatre Project, Charles Theatre and Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall are even closer, as is the University of Baltimore. A light-rail stop is adjacent to the neighborhood, and there is a metro stop at the nearby State Office Building complex on Eutaw Street.
The neighborhood's religious roots can be found at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Memorial Episcopal and Strawbridge United Methodist Church, as well as the Bolton Hill Synagogue.
There are at least a couple of bed-and-breakfast establishments, including Mr. Mole at Bolton and McMechen streets.
Residents can join the Bolton Hill Tennis and Swim Club, or join the swimming pool at Sutton Place; the Mount Royal Elementary and Middle School is in the neighborhood and the new Midtown Academy is next door to Corpus Christi.
There's additional shopping. "On McMechen Street, there is a Rite Aid and a Super Fresh, and Bell Hardware has every unusual thing you need for these old houses," Warner said.
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 5 minutes
Public schools: Mount Royal Elementary and Middle, Frederick DouglassHigh.
Points of interest: Maryland Institute, College of Art; Lyric Theater,Meyerhoff Symphony Hall; Theatre Project.
ZIP code: 21217